By Troy Pollock
As you and your team return from a summer season filled with vacations, conferences and enjoying time with family, it’s a great time to reset priorities and develop a plan for the rest of the year.
What are your goals? Challenges? Opportunities for growth?
And more importantly, what steps are you taking to nurture your community this year?
A recent study from Barna found that while the majority of pastors are optimistic about the future growth of their church, nearly 75 percent of churches do not have a formal strategy in place to achieve that growth. While every church wants to reach new people and better engage with those who are already a part of their community, many don’t know where to start.
Below are four steps to create meaningful interactions with your congregants and keep them engaged throughout their journey in ministry.
#1: Know your audience
When we start talking about a church’s target audience or demographic, some people get uncomfortable. “Isn’t the gospel for everyone?” some might say, suggesting that defining a target audience is limiting or exclusive.
But here’s the secret: you already have a target audience, whether you know it or not. Yes, there will be outliers that might not fit into the cultural norms of your church — that makes your community diverse and unique. However, when you get down to the core of your congregation, everything your church does and says is going to appeal to one group more than another. Music, preaching style, weekly rituals and more.
Invest time to identify the traits of your church culture and the demographic you’re exceptionally good at serving because of those traits. That will not only allow you to connect in more meaningful ways, it will also enable you to focus ministry efforts on the missions and activities that matter most to your community. As we further define the steps to nurture your community, you have to know who you’re trying to reach and what next step you want them to take.
#2: Make them feel seen
We know that more than 33 percent of people search for and view your website before they ever arrive in person. A recent study by Vanderbloemen showed that most churches view the online community experience as a first step to move people towards an in-person gathering.
So when they do arrive, seek them out and welcome them. There’s nothing worse than showing up for weeks, or even months, without someone acknowledging your presence. Take the time to notice and connect with your people. This could be through responding to those who filled out a contact card, looking at a donor dashboard to view giving trends, or having a mentor program to personally dive into the needs and interests of new members.
One of the speakers at Summit, our annual Pushpay user conference, recently shared a story about her journey and experience in joining a new church. She said that after a few visits they asked if she was interested in becoming more involved in the church. When she said yes, they scheduled one-on-one time with her and a ministry mentor, encouraged her to take a personality test so they could learn more about her strengths, and then discussed different areas of the church that might be a good fit based on her passions and talents.
Wow. What a personal way to welcome people into your community and tap into groups and volunteer opportunities that really matter to them.
Another great way to nurture both newcomers and long-standing members is through technology. Depending on the tools you use, ministry leaders can segment app and website content for various audiences to ensure that what people get is most pertinent to them. For example, an unmarried person who is shown a sermon snippet on an upcoming dating class will feel more seen, understood and engaged. Likewise, a family with young kids will find more value in getting updates about the children’s ministry. Being able to deliver relevant content is personal, meaningful and results in a deeper connection over time.
#3: Reciprocate generosity
Many of us have been in a situation where as soon as we get out of the welcome phase, we are bombarded with requests to volunteer, give and do. While serving is what we are called to do, many members of your congregation give selflessly to ministry efforts. How are you giving back to them?
Generosity is reciprocal. By giving something simple but meaningful up front — like a personalized note, a thoughtful event, or a great experience — a church can model the generosity it wants to grow. This is instrumental in helping nurture church engagement and growth.
#4: Encourage meaningful participation
Now that you’ve taken the time to know your audience and have acknowledged them in meaningful ways, it’s the perfect time to invite that person to participate to the same degree that you’ve invested and given to them. Invite them to take the next step that makes the most sense for them. Anticipating needs and showing interest in where people are in their faith journey — and in what capacity they can participate — will allow your team to build stronger connections within the church.
As you build a community of actively engaged people, the nurture journey isn’t over. It’s a cycle. Start back at phase one and continue with them as they continue to invest in the church.
To learn more about how you can nurture your community visit Pushpay.com/Nurture.
Troy Pollock is Chief Ambassador at Pushpay. He has more than a decade of experience in the faith and technology industries. Pollock is passionate about helping customers grow participation and engagement in their ministries.